Generally, the work of the Supreme Court of Illinois is to dispose of cases accepted by the Court on appeal and to administer the statewide court system. Justice Cobbs has experience working with the Court both in disposing of cases and administering the court system. Justice Cobbs has the kind of experience that matters.
Justice Cobbs was appointed as a circuit court judge in September 2011. Having been evaluated and found qualified by the Chicago Bar Association and the Alliance of Bar Associations, she was slated by the Cook County Democratic Party and won election to the circuit court seat in 2014. As a circuit court judge, she presided over traffic court, forcible entry and detainer, debt collection and small claims, the specialized Pro Se litigants court call, and civil jury trials.
Justice Cobbs was appointed by the Supreme Court of Illinois as a justice on the Illinois Appellate Court in January 2015. In the Appellate Court, Justice Cobbs has served as a member of the Executive Committee and as the presiding justice of the First District’s Third Division.
Justice Cobbs served as senior judicial law clerk to Supreme Court (Chief) Justice Charles E. Freeman, the first African American judge to serve on the state’s Supreme Court. Justice Cobbs thus became the first African American to serve as a senior judicial law clerk on the state’s highest court.
As senior clerk, Justice Cobbs reviewed all aspects of litigation for trial errors committed by attorneys in the trial of cases, as well as by the courts in ruling on pleadings, the admissibility of evidence and in rendering a final verdict or judgment in civil, criminal and juvenile cases, pending on appeal to the high court. On Justice Freeman’s behalf, she drafted the written disposition in those cases, which provided the legal analysis and basis for the Supreme Court’s final ruling, as well as concurring and dissenting opinions. Additionally, Justice Cobbs reviewed and made recommendations to Justice Freeman on the disposition of all filed motions, petitions for rehearing in previously disposed of cases and on petitions for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. Justice Cobbs served as senior law clerk on the Supreme Court from 1990 to 1997, having also served as a judicial clerk to Justice Freeman during his tenure on the Illinois Appellate Court.
In December of 1997, Justice Cobbs joined the legal staff of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, the administrative arm of the Illinois Supreme Court. There, she worked as an attorney in the office’s Executive Division and was subsequently promoted to Chief Legal Counsel. In March 2002, Justice Cobbs was appointed Director of the Illinois Courts, becoming the first woman and the first African American appointed by the Supreme Court to serve alongside the Court as its statewide director.
As a constitutional officer, then Director Cobbs assisted the Supreme Court in its mandate to oversee and administer every aspect of the Illinois judicial branch of government. In that capacity, Justice Cobbs frequently interfaced with members of the state legislature and with agencies within the executive branch of government, including the Secretary of State, State Attorney General, State Board of Elections, Office of the Auditor General and the Office of Management and Budget. Justice Cobbs developed the Supreme Court’s administrative agendas and met regularly with the Supreme Court justices regarding the management of state’s circuit and appellate courts, implementation of Supreme Court rules and policies, the development of new court committees and implementation of new court programs. Managing the five operational divisions of the Administrative Office, Justice Cobbs developed and managed the Supreme Court’s nearly $300 million annual budget, developed policies for the uniform delivery of Illinois’ adult and juvenile probation services, oversaw the development of judicial education programs for all Illinois judges, enhanced the use of technology in the state courts, developed the first policies for implementation of e-filing and e-access in the trial courts and, facilitated the work of the Supreme Court’s several committees. During her tenure as director, Justice Cobbs served as an ex-officio member of the Illinois Judicial Conference, the Supreme Court Legislative Committee, the Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission, for which she had drafted the enabling legislation for its creation, secretary to the Illinois Courts Commission, as well as to the Conference of Chief Circuit Judges.